WHEELING, W.Va. (WTRF) — There’s no denying it—the country has gone to the dogs.

The pet industry has doubled in just the last decade, breaking the 100 billion dollar mark every year.

People buy homes just so their pets can have more space.

Many of the younger generation jump into “pet parenting” before they even think about having children.

Meet friends at new Wheeling Park Fitzsimmons Family Dog Park

And in public, you’re more likely nowadays to go up to see a stranger’s dog than a stranger’s baby.

Fifteen years ago, even 10 years ago, we saw people perhaps every once in a while bring their dogs somewhere. Today it’s an expectation.

Deborah Turcott, Principal, Oriana Solutions

And given all these facts, it’s no surprise they’re changing our cities as well.

Deborah Turcott is a Florida speaker who encourages communities to embrace pet owners.

Her “Dog-Friendly Wheeling Workshop” today showed how specific facilities, events and buildings can be leveraged into a thriving community.

I want to know, do they have access to water? Are there green places where they can walk around and I can walk with them? Are there places where we can sit down and rest?

Deborah Turcott, Principal, Oriana Solutions

That means events like costume parades and pet blessings.

Specific design choices like special flooring and water fountains pets can use.

Even public art can become a statement that dogs and the people holding their leashes are welcome.

Right here in Wheeling, there is more than $9 million being spent annually just on dog and cat food and treats and toys. That’s a lot of revenue that sits within your community that we want to welcome into downtown Wheeling.

Deborah Turcott, Principal, Oriana Solutions

She says if you want to see change: it’s time to schedule some walks downtown.

You can learn what infrastructure exists for dogs and what would suit you as an owner—and then tell the officials who can make it happen.

You’ve got the great trail system you have along the beautiful river, and you have lots of beautiful alleyways that can create little safe spaces, you have everything you need right here in Wheeling to make this a really dog friendly community.

Deborah Turcott, Principal, Oriana Solutions

Because pet owners know—starting a conversation is much easier with a friendly dog at your side.